Internet brought vets together again|[10/08/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 8, 2007

The Internet wasn’t around when the 504th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Operations Detachment was called to service during the Korean Conflict and stationed in Mannheim, Germany. But since the advent of speedy, easy communication, most of the Army regiment’s 52 members have reconnected.

Last week, Vicksburg was the venue. It’s the home of Bobby Raines, 75, who said the veterans spent two days “sharing memories, talking about old days.”

“This is something we’ve been doing for the last nine years now,” said Raines, a retired Vicksburg firefighter and former professional wrestler. “And it’s something I always look forward to.”

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Raines said he and his fellow regiment members lived and served together for about 2 1/2 years in Germany tracking the course of enemy aircraft. But since the departure of the regiment in 1953, Raines said most of its members lost touch.

Then in the late 90s, Charles Rogers, a fellow regiment member who lives in San Antonio, Texas, started taking advantage of computer technology.

Rogers said he had gathered with a few members of the former regiment on a couple of occasions over the years, but had no contact with most of the regiment. So he used the Internet to track down as many as he could, and, in 1999, the 504th convened in Las Vegas.

Since then the tradition has continued. Joined by their wives, members of the regiment travel from all over the country to reunite at a different location each year.

During their two days in the River City, the group toured Vicksburg and its historic sites, which included the National Military Park, and held social gatherings, like their BBQ at a lodge near Eagle Lake, where entertainment was provided by the Wright Road Band.

“Everyone enjoyed Vicksburg tremendously,” Raines said. “They said they wouldn’t mind coming back here next year.”

But instead of a repeat visit, Raines said the group plans to meet in Nashville next year.